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Who is smarter - dogs or cats?

Who is smarter - dogs or cats?

Posted by Patricia on 10th Mar 2023

Many cat lovers scoff at the idea of dogs being intellectually superior. But an equal number of dog people will laugh at the notion that cats might be more brilliant.

Since this topic creates controversy rather quickly, it might be interesting to look at the whole matter from a scientific rather than emotional basis.

Are dogs smarter than cats?

Published research cites a study that "counted the number of neurons in dog and cat brains and found one had twice as many as the other." Neurons are the nerve cells in the brain that transmit messages. According to National Geographic, cited below, dogs win on this one with 500 million neurons versus cats with 250 million. In contrast, humans have about 18 billion neurons.

"Neurons are the basic information processing units," said one study's author, Suzana Herculano-Houzel. "The more units you find in the brain, the more cognitively capable the animal is."

Researchers posited that "dogs have roughly the same intelligence as raccoons and lions, while domestic cats have comparable intelligence to bears."

Are cats smarter than dogs?

Kristyn Vitale, an assistant professor of animal health and behavior at Unity College in Maine, gives it to the felines. As cited below, the current focus of her work is on the social intelligence of cats.

"Often stereotyped as aloof and disinterested in humans, cats show a high degree of social intelligence, often at the same level as dogs," Vitale said.

Vitale notes that if pet owners treat dogs and cats differently, the animal's overall intelligence will be affected.

"For example, Vitale said, "dogs are often well socialized and attend puppy classes, go for rides in cars, and go to the dog park," she said. "Cat owners give their cats less of these types of socialization and training opportunities."

Is it a tie?

Studies report an adult cat's intelligence to be comparable to that of a 2-year-old toddler. Likewise, dogs have abilities equal to a child up to 2-1/2 years of age, and some breeds have higher intelligence than others.

The bottom line is your dog might be smarter than my cat, but it all depends on the individual animal. Intelligence in any species (including humans) depends on several factors, including socialization, innate abilities, brain size, diet, and even the amount of attention you give your pet. Someone once told me, "You can't love your cat smart, but you can sure ignore him stupid."

Paws up: Don't worry, animal lovers. Dogs and cats involved in the studies cited herein had passed away, and their guardians had donated their bodies to veterinary research.

Quote to remember: "You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow." – Jeff Valdez


National Geographic

"Are Dogs Smarter Than Cats? Science Has an Answer"


"Are cats or dogs smarter?"